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Rookies Brace For Their Welcome-To-The-NFL Moment

Preseason may not seem very glamorous to fans craving high-intensity, regular-season action. This is especially true for Eagles fans desperate to see their championship team back on the field and raising a Super Bowl banner in the stadium rafters.

However, the preseason offers the first taste of what football at the next level will be like for rookie players on NFL rosters. The speed, as well as the energy from the fans, will be intense and exciting for the Eagles’ rookies when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night.

Offensive lineman Matt Pryor, a sixth-round draft pick out of TCU, has impressed many so far in camp and has even earned snaps with the first-team unit. Thursday will be an important opportunity for Pryor as well as a fun experience to play in front of Eagles fans again after more than 40,000 showed up for the first public practice on Sunday.

“It’s going to be intense,” Pryor said. “We had the practice over there. You know, I’m coming from college, I haven’t been around that many fans, so it will be a new setting for me. So, we’ll see how I handle it, but I think it’s going to be pretty good. ... It isn’t college. It’s the NFL, so I feel like fans are going to be more intense.”

All eyes will be on rookie tackle Jordan Mailata who will be playing in his first live football game. The 6-8, 346-pound lineman had only played rugby in Australia before being drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. His size and potential talent outweighed the difficulties of teaching a brand-new sport.

“It’s crazy the feeling of knowing you’re going to go ahead and play a game at the Linc in a couple days’ time,” Mailata said Tuesday after practice. “There’s obviously a lot of things going through my mind, but I’m just trying to take it one step at a time. ... You’re going to be tired as hell. That’s what they keep saying.”

Mailata was especially impressed with the crowd on Sunday as the fans brought energy for the entire practice, even spending a portion of it competing section by section to produce the loudest Eagles chants. Quarterback Carson Wentz jokingly said he even considered going to a silent count during the practice.

Mailata, new to the NFL fan landscape, said he’s excited to see Eagles fans top that on Thursday.

“That was crazy,” Mailata said. “No words. That was absolutely crazy for a training session at the Linc and just to see 40,000 fans chanting the Eagles chant. It was crazy.”

Tight end Dallas Goedert, the Eagles’ first pick in the 2018 draft, said he too was impressed but not at all surprised by the energy of Eagles fans at the open practice. For the tight end who is competing for playing time behind Zach Ertz and who has been a heavy red zone target in practice so far, he said it was beneficial to get a taste of the Philadelphia crowd before the first preseason game.

“They say Philly has the best fans in the world, so it was kind of what I expected,” Goedert said. “I feel like it was good to come in here before the preseason game with the fans and everything. It took of some of the nerves away. Obviously, it will be a little bit different on gameday, but I’m excited. It should be a lot of fun.”

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